GW2: When Fun Becomes Obligation

The Endless Chasm of Fun-Sucking Obligations

Confession time. I’m finding WvW in Guild Wars 2 less fun lately.

This self-revelation was brought to you courtesy of some mulling over Wilhelm Arcturus’ Rambling About Motivation post. It’s chock full of stuff that invites deep thinking. One of the highlights include:

It is like I cannot be trusted to say what is fun and what is not at a conscious level.  But my behavior doesn’t lie.  If I won’t log on to do it, it isn’t fun at some level within me.  But if I do log on to do something, it must fun, even if it is at some deeper level my conscious mind cannot really grasp.

Except I kinda agree and disagree.

I think most people who haven’t thought about it cannot be trusted to say what is fun and what is not at a conscious level, except on a really short-term basis. “Woo! I got a reward!” equates to “Yay, this is fun!” for the couple seconds of hedonic pleasure.

“Argh, I keep dying/losing/beating my head on a brick wall/failing to make progress” becomes “Definitely not fun, hate it, loathe it” during the moment and possibly, some time after that, if they keep brooding on it.

Somehow, whether it’s through their own effort or not at all (aka being carried by others in a group,) if they move past that stuck point, the eventual victory and reward of winning sparks off an adrenaline-fueled triumph, vicarious or otherwise. Add on to that the immediate external reward awarded to them, and suddenly, “Wow. Awesome. Soooo fun. Everyone rocks!”

(I just came off an Ascalonian Catacombs Path 3 explorable run where this happened. We had two low levels with us, and the three 80s were melee, which may have led to poor dps potential on the downing the graveling burrows. It took about 5 tries, with a lot of coaching and cajoling of folks to focus on the burrows, stop obsessing about kiting and focus on AoE damage, strafe and keep moving to keep the melee hitting instead of missing and the contribution of one poor lowbie was questionable because the fellow kept dying the instant he came into contact with the gravelings – which I’m not blaming, since it’s unreasonable to expect a new player with his first character to know how and have money to buy gear off the trading post, keep it upgraded and so on, and have enough toughness/vitality, plus traits, etc. Hell, I don’t find it cost effective to keep my alt thief’s jewelry upgraded, but I know enough to not venture into any dungeons then.

Somehow, incredibly, the fifth try made it, which sent the lowbie into ecstatic paroxysms of joy while I was only feeling a sense of pain relief. Our basis of comparison may have been different, he apparently failed at this spot 4-5 times previously in other groups which broke up, while I’m used to steamrollering past it with exotic gear 80s.

The rest of the dungeon was fortunately fairly uneventful, though seeing 3/5 and 4/5 people almost constantly downed by Colossus Rumblus’ insanely wide front cone – that also whacks people at his sides – despite my prior warning on how wide it was and to stay behind him – was mildly amusing.

Protip: He follows a set attack pattern, his scream always comes after the AoE rock shower that knocks down if you stand in the red circles. Let him finish his scream before running to revive downed people, you have a time window then, else all you have is the whole party immediately KO’ed because he’s going to face everyone rubbing the downed person and do his favorite screech.

Was the whole experience fun? I’m honestly not sure. It’s much better blog fodder, aka a good story, than what usually happens, aka a smooth 20-30 minute run from start to end. But my personal tastes run to enjoying the slick efficient painless ones a bit more than the herding other players past adversity ones. On the other hand, I keep PUGing and as Wilhelm says, if I keep doing it, then my behavior speaks a lot more than my words. Imo, I don’t really mind it, but that’s arguably a different level of emotion than finding it enjoyable or fun.

And I honestly think I get a better ratio of good groups to bad groups BY PUGing than strictly relying on a guild. For one thing, it exposes me to a lot more situations that I can adapt to. It exposes me to a lot more people who are also exposed to more situations they can adapt to, or die trying. This unrelenting pressure no doubt weeds out the players who can’t take it and has them hide back in their guild groups, who feel obliged to stick with them for a longer period of time while training them at their pace. I also learn a lot of ‘how other people do it’ strategies by mixing around with randoms. And you run a lot more dungeons if you’re open to PUGing, more practice, more experience, more familiarity = more speed more smoothly less pain more enjoyment. More fun?

Until it gets boring and repetitive, anyway, but burnout’s another story.

In that light, my behavior makes sense, I PUG because it’ll give me a higher ratio of personal subjective fun to non-fun.)

Sorry, big sidetrek there. Lemme requote the relevant bit with regards to WvW:

If I won’t log on to do it, it isn’t fun at some level within me.  But if I do log on to do something, it must fun, even if it is at some deeper level my conscious mind cannot really grasp.

The caveat I automatically tacked on at the end of that sentence was, “Or it might be just an obligation that keeps me logging on to do something.

That’s just something that pops up in my mind, thanks to the effects of PvE raiding burnout even before there was WoW. I kept logging on into the MUD, long past the point of any of its activities being fun, because I couldn’t deal with the thought of losing my characters, my gear (they autodeleted inactives in those days when paid subs were not the norm,) my reputation, my prestige, and because there were people I knew, good friends and comrades-in-arms, plus organizations and obligations that were hard to disassociate from.

After years of clinging on, I eventually learned the difficult lesson that if it is really not fun for you anymore, it is not fun, period. In fact, all you may end up doing is making other peoples’ experience not-fun as well because you end up taking out your unhappiness on them. And that moving on may sometimes be necessary. And friends may not be forever, just cherish the memories and reconnect now and then if they still care to maintain the relationship, shrug if they don’t.

I think my only uncertainty these days is that I’m still working out where that “point of no return” lies.

I know how to go past it very quickly. Force yourself to keep doing what isn’t working. Treat everything as a chore you gotta grind at to get to the so-called good stuff. Nose to the grindstone some more. Never take a break. Screw variety and novelty. Win at all costs. Ends important, any means work. Obsess until you go kablooey one day.

Doing the opposite of the above slows down getting to and past that point. You may even backtrack now and then, but entropy and the passage of time seems to creep you nearer and nearer to it, try as you might to keep stuff fresh and fun.

Lately, I’ve noticed myself avoiding even logging on to Guild Wars 2 during a certain time period. Let’s just say it’s a time I know that certain commanders will be out in WvW, and I find their style of play and strategies not conducive to my personal enjoyment of the game experience. If I’m online, I feel compelled to join into WvW for various reasons, such as server pride, guild social obligations, habit, etc. If I’m not, then well, ignorance is bliss.

On the other hand, I don’t half-mind jumping into WvW during another time period, where I again know certain other commanders will be out in WvW, whose styles of play and strategies are fairly conducive to my personal enjoyment of the game experience.

I may or may not even join these commanders in their squads, btw, I’m more referring to how the battle lines get drawn out, thereby affecting where the fights are, how much siege is being used, how much traffic there is in text chat versus voice communications – some people really love using text, some people really love using voice, and it’s really hard for the twain to meet, how much my morale is weakened or strengthened according to my perception and preferences of the above.

But even during the time period that I like to WvW in, I’m starting to get a bit tired from the repetition.

What repetition?

Running with a zerg, in a squad, in a group, with 2-3 other people, alone, to take supply camps. Done. Multiple times. They flip. We flip. Flipflipflip. If we actually think, we might even time it so that we flip just before the score tick, which is strategically better, and happens sometimes.

Colliding with an enemy zerg, with a squad, with a group, a few people, a lone person while in the above variations. If the number disparity is too great, the poor unfortunate minority gets bulldozed. Happens.

If not, then there is a battle which could be a zerg facing off another zerg, with flanking maneuvers, portal bombs and/or stacking and spamming aoe, and eventually through attrition and better play, one side loses sufficient numbers that the numbers disparity effect comes in and one side emerges the victor, or the losing side routs and is cut down, or does a tactical fighting retreat, portals away or just moves really quickly around a corner and/or may come back in a flanking maneuver/portal bomb which catches the previously winning side by surprise and wipes them. Throw in some stealth and invisible players due to culling issues for added fun and randomness.

With smaller numbers, then it becomes a bit more like an individual skirmish, player skill, gear, level and coordination all having various effects on the eventual winner and loser of the situation. Sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s not.

Setting up siege in various locations, for defensive purposes, for offensive purposes. Guarding the location. Sometimes we succeed until the objective of the siege is accomplished. Sometimes an enemy zerg comes in and see paragraph above about the battle. Repeat until siege objective is accomplished or until funds or morale or numbers runs out.

Accompanying dolyaks as they make their supply runs. Swiftness. Spam it whenever it’s up. Guard alone, with few other people, with lots more people, whatever. Sometimes we meet 0 people, a lone ganker or two, a bunch of other people, lots more people. See above paragraphs about the battles that happen. Be somewhat bored but also vaguely thankful for the quietness when the 0 person situation occurs.

Responding to announced enemy attacks on various locations. This may involve waypointing, and more often, lots of running towards the location. Then bring up the battle scenarios as previously mentioned above.

The only thing I haven’t really tried so much is the ninja strikes and ganks into enemy territory on enemy dolyaks, due to lack of a suitable class, but from extrapolation by being on the opposite side, I forsee it to be a ‘sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, see above battle paragraphs’ thing too.

I’ve sussed it out. I understand the general flow of WvW now. Overview of the mechanics, learned. And that unfortunately tends to begin the death knell for me with things I don’t personally enjoy the moment-to-moment aspects of.

It’s how my personality works. I love to get the big picture, scan stuff, grok it just enough to know it, jack-of-all-trades master of none kind of thing. I don’t have the patience to sit there teasing out details, specializing and being an expert at one tiny little part, I leave that for others who do enjoy it.

I ain’t got the time commitment, the regularity of gameplay hours, the follower-conformity or the leadership-commander mentality to join a really organized guild with voice comms and pull off the really pro stuff you see on the WvW battlefields. It’s pretty neat to watch, but actually performing that kind of thing means specialized builds and lots of hours of practising together to work as one. I accept that I don’t find the moment-to-moment of that fun, and thus I’ll never do as well, an organized guild is free to steamroll over me until I get tired of it and not come to play.

In fact, working to win or beating that organized guild by improving my own organization or play may be less important to me in priority than the moment-to-moment fun I’m having.

Which is kind of a horrible admission to make. It feels like I’m letting down people. It feels like I’ve just joined the noob ranks of the casual randoms who just mill around everywhere frustrating people who are focused on winning or at least, playing well at an organized level during the times one is online.

I do try, now and then. I’m one of the few people I’ve seen who can accompany a dolyak for 3-4 hours in WvW. Sometimes it is lost when circumstances steamroll me beyond control. But sheer persistence will shove enough supply in at the slightly accelerated rate. I report enemy sightings, I get paranoid and check out sneaky white swords because I always suspect a ninja attempt, I look for siege to man when I see red names at the gate, I try and respond to reported attacks, and I may even follow a commander and try and help that way now and again.

Some other people, they really LOVE that moment to moment skirmish and battling. WvW is made for them, there’s lots of ‘see above paragraphs on battles’ happening frequently and forever (unless there’s a horrible imbalance and one server crushes the morale of the two others involved.)

Me, I don’t actually get any joy out of laying another person flat onto the ground. I brought your hitpoints to zero, and some other guys were also helping, s’ nothing personal. Just walking over you to get where we wanna go, or preventing you from getting where you wanna go.

Weirdly, if I go down, I may get negative joy. It depends. If it’s plainly something beyond my control or ability to influence, say, rambling along and this group of 20 just vroooms over you. Ouch. Minor speedbump. No biggie, report when they are going, respawn, dust self off and try again elsewhere or join in the response against the group. If I get mowed down too often though, then it starts becoming more of a problem. Frustration starts to set in. Morale plummets. Giving up and saving money on repairs becomes a fairly attractive prospect to butting one’s head on a brick wall.

Lack of communication and purpose also affects it. If there’s a plan, if there’s a focus, if we’re always “Ok let’s try this now or that” and if folks gel together and fight, it’s more encouraging to stay in WvW and keep at it.

Funny thing is, good morale poses another problem. When do we stop? We’re doing so well, if we log out, we may lose it all!

Bad morale is also a catch-22. If we log out now, we’re making the problem worse by reducing the numbers fighting. Other people see that there ain’t enough people, or worse, the outmanned buff, and also decide to flee the scene.

But WvW is persistent and no one can stay up 24/7, 7 days a week either.

I’m rambling now, and I’m really not sure what my point is or if I have one. Maybe it’s that I’m finding it difficult to know when to stop.

Some folk who have trouble quitting raids when they don’t really like it anymore may understand. Maybe.

Social obligations and pride and not wanting to quit or be a loser make you want to keep on going.

But at the same time, none of the above is ‘fun’ and you really want some time for yourself to do fun stuff too.

Then again, WvW is persistent, unlike raids, you don’t need to make it at a scheduled time. So it’s not an all-or-nothing decision. I don’t have to quit for good, hardcore raider or bust.

I could always close my eyes, try not to pay too much attention to the score, trust in my fellow server mates, that enough people will cycle in and out of these various states of WvW morale at the different timezones, and just come in and do my casual best to contribute at the times that I feel I can spare.

Assuming I have the discipline to keep to those times, and not just start obsessing again and trying to save the map singlehandedly (which is ridiculously unrealistic) and being disappointed when stuff falls short of expectations.

Maybe I just need to take some time away and do the other PvE things I wanna do. Except we just came off a week where everyone was PvEing and now folks are watching to see if we can pull it together again. And not WvWing would be letting people and the server down. But feeling obliged to do it is not fun.

Fun versus Obligations. “Work.”

How the hell do these keep turning up in what is supposed to be ‘a game?’

I got no solutions. Any ideas, people?

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8 thoughts on “GW2: When Fun Becomes Obligation

  1. Macnol says:

    Yeah.

    Just one idea.

    Forget about WvW and unbind the hotkey that shows you the scores.

    If you feel that your guild would pressure you into joining them, find another one and represent it for a while (or during the times you know the pressure would build up in guild chat).

    Your fun comes first, getting burnout from feeling obliged to perform an activity will help absolutely no one. :)

  2. […] don’t understand it.. it is just not a playstyle suited to a long term project. I read one of Jeromai’s wvw pieces recently and was just dumbfounded as I just didn’t see WvW as something you could […]

  3. […] Chase the fun, for whatever definitions you find fun, because anything else leads to burnout. […]

  4. JS says:

    Wow, after reading all that, I am almost taken aback, as weird as that sounds. Have you considered not playing anymore? I mean the way you analyzed it painted a really depressing picture…

    • Jeromai says:

      Well, you see, I do enjoy the rest of the GW2 game. :) What I have done lately is cut back dramatically on my WvW hours.

      When I do go in, I only play for fun, screw the score – tbh, it isn’t worth looking at lately on my server.

      I’ve switched back to only running with my guild in a huge casual zergy mass which overruns most things colliding into it, and we’ve been lately just running the offensive karma train of supply camp taking, pvdoor against not-very-defended-or-upgraded keeps and not bothering to defend or supply.

      Tactically, it blows the mind, but being tactical wasn’t at all fun when one objectively looks at the current design of WvW. So what the hell, let’s just follow where the design guides us, wait for the designers to react, and reap the karma/gold reward while waiting. The fun is now in just running in a big team with your friends, doing crazy shit like mass golem rushes, and joking all the way.

  5. […] could get. They probably could use more support and hands on deck.” Before you know it, the feeling of social obligation has overtaken my whole night and 4-5 hours are spent reacting to a commander’s […]

  6. […] especially tickled because I somehow managed to find that WvW was too repetitive and burned myself out from the game format some time […]

  7. […] over and over. Fixed schedules and me don’t really mix well. They lead to obligation and obligation leads to erosion of fun, for […]

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